Despite Veto Threat, Obama Signs Defense Bill with Dangerous Implications
On New Year’s Day, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. The bill, as I’ve noted before, contains two troubling provisions which threaten basic civil liberties. These parts of the bill together allow for the indefinite detention—without trial—of terror suspects, even American citizens, and their rendition to military authorities. President Obama had initially threatened to veto the bill over these provisions, but, with Sunday’s signature, he reneged on the threat.
President Obama issued a “signing statement,” promising that his administration “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.” While this promise is certainly comforting, the legal ability of his administration to do so remains, regardless of what the President says in his signing statement. Moreover, Barack Obama will not always be president, and it is possible that a future president may have has no qualms about indefinitely detaining American citizens without trial.
The policies adopted ostensibly to keep American citizens safe have implications greater than their meaning in the immediate political environment or as interpreted by the president who signs them into law. Rather, laws enacted today will likely remain on the books for years, for use by future administrations, and in other circumstances than those facing us today. Power, once granted, is difficult to reclaim.
Image courtesy of Reuters.